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Rising Stars: Meet Blythe Leonard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Blythe Leonard.

Hi Blythe, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I am a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design and I have a BFA in Fashion and Accessory design. Upon graduation in 2015, I founded my American Made luxury handbag brand, Blythe Leonard LLC. We create handbags for men, women, children, and yes even newborn babies.

We create small leather goods as well as newborn baby shoes. The brand exploded throughout the years and I am known for authentically creating bags, one at a time, and never mass-produced. Every single bag is one-of-a-kind. When Covid hit in 2020, the devastation of small businesses closing made me realize how much I wanted to promote and support other American-made makers throughout the country.

In our downtown, of Thomasville, NC, we have a plethora of buildings that beg for love and renovations. So October 1st, 2020, I bought a two-story brick building that was built in 1898 that was originally the Lambeth Furniture Company, another American Manufacturing company. Over the course of seven months, we renovated the building with the help of 62 people-32 of which were volunteers.

We opened BL Maker’s Market LLC, on May 29, 2021. Every product throughout the store is handmade in the United States using American materials. When we opened the store, we had a little under 100 artists. As of today, we have 186 artists/makers in the store. The store sells items for women, men, children, and babies, as well as specialty foods, pottery, jewelry, gardening tools, home goods, and more.

The store is designed to look like your kitchen, living room, etc. with products on the countertop for sale that would typically be in your homes, such as cutting boards and berry bowls. We have artist demonstrations, festivals, Meet Santa nights and so much more.

The store is an experience from head to toe, supporting and giving back every day. It’s truly a place where dreams come alive.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
There have definitely been brick walls that we ran into along the way during our renovation.

Sometimes there is red tape or things that we aren’t necessarily knowledgeable about as far as codes in our city. Once we were aware of certain aspects of code enforcement, it was a lot easier to renovate!

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am known for my leather handbags. We have been featured in Elle, Harper‘s Bazaar, Our State, GQ, Men’s Health, Martha Stewart, Esquire, House of Coco, Davidson Magazine, and many more. I have made bags for Diane Keaton, Miranda Kerr, Libby Langdon, Mikel Welch, Hilary Farr, President Paula Wallace of SCAD, and many more.

We have had over 20 different retailers carry BL over the past 7 years. Every single bag at BL is one of a kind and made one at a time. One aspect of my bags that I am most proud of is the lining fabric. My great grandfather started three textile mills, a hosiery mill, a dye house, and a spinning mill. The spinning mill is the only business left and is actually one of only two left in the United States.

The hosiery mill and the dye house closed due to overseas competition in the early 2000s. My leather goods brand is actually located in the dye house warehouse that we have been constantly renovating since 2015. So the cotton in my lining fabric is actually grown in North Carolina, spine at my great grandfather’s spinning mill, (Hill Spinning Mill), woven and dyed in South Carolina, and printed in Mississippi. Our lining fabric supports five different American-made companies.

But as far as BL Maker’s Market, we are known for having the friendliest staff, quality products, and one-of-a-kind pieces. Customers know that when they come to our store, they will find incredible handmade items that support an actual person, a dreamer, and a creator. I am proud that I am known for helping artists and makers make sales and keep sales because they have seen what I have done with BL.

We also provide virtual shopping experiences for our customers and always ship for free. We are also known for giving back to our community, such as Pink Day, a fundraiser festival that raises funds to pay for 300 women in our community who are uninsured every year with a mammogram.

What sets me apart from others is that I always put my morals and others first and money last. It’s not always about money, but about people.

What matters most to you?
American manufacturing is one of the most important missions I have. Growing up in my great grandfather’s factories and seeing the devastation of the aftermath of NAFTA really put things into perspective.

Although I was young when two of his businesses went out of business, I still did not understand why hundreds of people were not at work anymore.

It wasn’t until I was older that I fully understood the impact of sending business out of our country. Our town is full of manufacturing plants that sit abandoned like time stood still, dreams were lost and the support of each other in business and community fell to the wayside.

Supporting other American makers is my number one priority. If every small business was supported by another small business (and celebrated) the world would be a much better place. American-made means supporting your neighbors, supporting communities, giving back to communities, increasing the economy, and supporting the passions each one of us has.

My makers in the store are so so so important to me! I want them to be successful, so giving them the right tools to succeed, creating digital and social content, and using my knowledge of marketing are vital in accomplishing my goals for them.

Pricing:

  • Pottery, $10-100
  • Jewelry, $14-120
  • Handbags $85-350
  • Specialty Foods, $2-$15
  • Home Goods, $15-175

Contact Info:

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1 Comment

  1. Jane Leonard

    August 1, 2022 at 11:28 pm

    A wonderful article on a very dedicated and hard working young lady! Thank you for highlighting Blythe and all that she does for her community! It’s a pleasure to read the good thinks that are happening in Thomasville.

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